Gestational Diabetes – The bane of pregnancy

item-mom-diabetes-pregnancy

Being pregnant is one of “those” moments in every woman’s life. You are overjoyed at the prospect of starting your own family. You are in awe of the miracle that is happening within your body, and if you haven’t given that much thought yet, you probably should. Being pregnant made me realize that my body was an amazingly complex system that was capable of so much more than just being a body (lol…) You are also most likely going to spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not you will make a good mother…as you should if you ask me.

In addition to all of the above wonderfulness, you also expect your body to throw you in loops, from morning sickness to the constant need to rush to the bathroom. The loss of sleep at nights to the extreme lethargy during waking hours and as you progress along this journey you find yourself craving food that you never liked before, sometimes in whacked out combinations too.

However I am not here to talk about any of those. I am going to talk about the dreaded “gestational diabetes”. For those of you that have done your homework, you probably are wondering…”what is so dreaded about something that is only temporary?” Well let me tell you some from my own experience and some from what I have since found out.

So what exactly is “Gestational Diabetes”? Gestational diabetes is basically diabetes in a woman brought on by the onset of pregnancy. The whacked out hormones in your body decide to relax every other functioning organ thereby making your body incapable of processing sugar the way it did before you got pregnant.

The risks, blood sugar levels start to go up. And as my doctor likes to say “the only thing we are born craving is sugar”. So the little one inside of you is happily sucking in all that sugar in your blood. This leads to a few complications that you would rather avoid…I’ve listed a few below:

  1. Your baby ends up putting on extra weight within the womb. You really do not want this especially if you want a normal vaginal delivery.
  2. The amniotic fluid surrounding your baby starts to increase. Again something you really do not want.
  3. And if the above mentioned aren’t bad enough once your baby is born he/she might have a “Glucose Crash” due to the sudden fall in sugar levels.
  4. You are also making your baby susceptible to getting “Type 2 Diabetes” in his/her future.

Prevention as they say is better than cure. If you are already diabetic before you got pregnant, your doctor will order regular blood tests and put you on a strict diet and exercise regime. FOLLOW IT!

For those of you who like me had good blood sugar levels before they got pregnant here are a few tips and tricks:

Invest in a Glucometer and test strips:

Don’t wait until your doctor requests a blood sugar test. Most doctors in India will ask for blood test around 11-13 weeks, chances are at this point GD wouldn’t have developed. However when you look at your sugar levels, if you find yourself closer to the upper range of normal, go ahead and invest in a Glucometer and test strips. Check your fasting and post meal sugar levels at least once or twice a week. This way you will catch any onset early on.

Blood Sugar Test:

Your doctor will make you take the GD test around week 27-28 and if you have been keeping a tab, you will clear this test. Let’s face it, who doesn’t like acing tests eh?

Exercise:

Unless you have specifically been advised by your doctor to take it easy and kick your legs up and do nothing, you better exercise while pregnant. But hold on there, no weights and heavy duty jumping jacks. Walking is great, kegel (really helps), yoga is fantastic too. Google or youtube, you will find way too many exercise routines that are totally safe during pregnancy, go ahead and spend 30 minutes a day breaking out some sweat.

If you do find that your body isn’t processing sugar the way it should, go ahead and spend 15-20 minutes walking around.

Drink tons of water:

Drink at least 4-5 litres of water a day, the more the better. Yes you will you spending a lot more time in the washroom, but it will flush out the extra sugar in your system. Nothing can take its place.

If you are addicted to your coffee/tea/soda, I’m gonna be a little in your face and say “Cut it out girl”. I think spending 9 months without it won’t kill you. So go ahead cut it out. If you absolutely cannot live without it, restrict yourself to just 1 cup of coffee or tea a day. You have to cut out the soda though.

Diet – Cut out the starch and sugars:

Limit your intake of starchy foods (potatoes, rice, etc). You really have to watch the sugars, so go really easy on the cakes and pastries and what-not. It’s not easy, I know. I am a South Indian who hasn’t touched a grain of rice for over a month and it’s not being easy.

 

Honestly you don’t have to do anything fancy and you definitely don’t need advice from a nutritionist unless you are a lost case of extremely uncontrollable GD. Just make a diet plan and follow it. Meat, nuts, eggs, vegetables are great addition to your meal. Fruits are better avoided or the intake should be less. You can however help yourself to berries, so strawberries, cranberries, blueberries, raspberries etc are all fine to have.

Drink milk, but not in the quantities our mothers would tell us to. Half a cup with no additives should be enough. Have low fat curd. Greek yogurt is great too. Go help yourself to 3-4 tablespoons of it.

What you need to remember is that you will not be having 3 big meals anymore. Instead you will have 6-7 smaller meals. When you are done with a meal you shouldn’t feel like your tummy will touch the floor if you stand. Drink a glass of water before you start eating, you will end up eating less.

Having said all of the above, here is something that I definitely want to talk about. Whether or not you (an Indian) get diagnosed with GD will definitely depend on your sugar levels, but it will also depend on whether you are in India or some west world country.

In India the following numbers are normal:

Fasting sugar levels:  Anything less than 99 mg/dl

Post Meals: Anything less than 140 mg/dl

However in the U.S.A. they have lower upper limits:

Fasting sugar levels:  Anything less than 90 mg/dl

Post Meals: Anything less than 120 mg/dl

Anything over than and you definitely need to be concerned or watchful. In India, your doctor wouldn’t be too concerned unless your numbers consistently are higher than 140 mg/dl.

However, in the US, you will be absolutely tortured if your numbers are higher than 90 and 120. And when I say tortured, I mean you will be on insulin immediately. And the dosage would keep increasing until you consistently have readings within their prescribed limits. One high reading could lead to more insulin and you really do not want that.

So if you are pregnant and in the US, you have to maintain a much stricter diet and control over your blood sugar levels

What to do if you find your blood sugar rising uncontrollably:

  • Bitter Gourd.
    • You can make it tolerable by adding a large piece of ginger to the juicer when blending it. Once you strain out the juice you can also add the juice of 1 lemon. You can also add green apples, although that is best avoided if you are trying to bring an immediate lowering of sugar levels.
    • Make a quick bitter gourd side dish. De-seed and chop the bitter gourd into small pieces. Chop onions into long strips. Heat a little oil, throw in the onions, 1-2 chilies and a few curry leaves. Stir for 2 minutes, now throw in the bitter gourd and pour in a little water. Add some salt and let this cook until the water evaporates. Have this with 2 slices of bread or chappati. Works like magic.
  • Coconut shells
    • A rather unconventional but effective method to lower blood sugar quickly is to boil water with the shell of the coconut (the hard stuff after you have grated out the coconut). Cool and drink this water. It has a coconut-like taste and is not appealing but its effective.
  • Curry Leaves and Cluster Beans (Gavar)
    • Boil a handful of both in a pan of water and consume this water daily. This will also keep your blood sugar levels in check.

High consumption of bitter gourd during pregnancy is not good, so keep this as a emergency measure.

When in doubt, be sure that you are consulting your doctor more than blog’s though.

Happy motherhood to you!

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